The Atlantic Report on the World Today: Washington


IN THE weeks before the Big Three met at Yalta, events were threatening Allied unity. Stalin had recognized the made-in-Moscow committee at Lublin as the government of liberated Poland, while Great Britain and the United States continued to recognize the Polish government-in-exile at London. Britain’s unilateral action in Greece had provoked a civil war. Differences between London and Washington had left the struggling new Italian government in confusion. Suspicions as to Russia’s intentions in liberated Bulgaria were mounting. Harsh words had begun to fly across the Atlantic.

The outlook was gloomy enough to stir some of our former isolationists into action. Senator Vandenberg came forward with a proposal that the United States join our allies in a treaty guaranteeing the perpetual demilitarization of Germany. If Russia and Britain are so fearful of the future that they must strengthen themselves at the expense of smaller nations, he said in effect, we ought to remove doubt from their minds by committing the United States to renew the war by executive action if it should ever become necessary to keep Germany impotent.

This fresh approach from a leading Republican met with immediate and widespread approval. It was shortly supplemented by appeals for joint commissions in each of the liberated countries to carry out United Nations policies instead of the will of a single power. Our diplomatic aloofness disappeared.

Washington’s move

The main structure of an international system to keep the peace was outlined at Dumbarton Oaks last fall. The task at San Francisco will be to put these agreements into charter form that will be acceptable to all the smaller powers as well as the Big Three. No one wants disgruntled nations to take a walk.

At Washington the question is whether the Senate will finally authorize the United States to become a partner in an international system to keep the peace by force. Prime Minister Churchill has Parliament’s unanimous approval of the Crimean agreements. Marshal Stalin’s word needs no legislative endorsement in Russia. But the United States has no means of approving any action in advance, or of giving the President formal backing in the early stages of negotiation. The world is watching the Senate, restricted as it is by the two-thirds rule for approval of treaties. Can the United States become an effective participant in a peace conference under this handicap?

The chance of getting the two-thirds rule lifted from the Constitution before the United Nations treaty reaches the Senate seems to be nil. The Senate Judiciary Committee has put a ban on constitutional amendments of any type until the war is over. But other signs are more favorable. The State Department has been working with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee ever since plans for a new collective security system began to take shape. Senators helped to draft the proposals which former Secretary of State Hull carried to Moscow in the fall of 1943. The Connally Resolution, endorsing the principle of our participating in international peace through a world organization, passed by a vote of 85 to 5.

Executive-legislative teamwork is promised in the choice of delegates nominated for San Francisco. The President announced his selections hastily, without consulting the appointees, but few have quarreled with his selection. Chairman Tom Connally of the Foreign Relations Committee and Senator Vandenberg will speak for the Senate; Chairman Sol Bloom and Charles A. Eaton of the Foreign Affairs Committee, for the House. Secretary of State Stettinius will head the delegation, with Mr. Hull as senior adviser; Commander Harold Stassen and Dean Virginia C. Gildersleeve of Barnard College represent non-official points of view.

Half the delegates are members of Congress. Three are outstanding Republicans. The President has scrupulously avoided the mistake of Woodrow Wilson in denying the Senate and the opposition party a voice in the Paris Peace Conference in 1919.

The veto power on sanctions

Acceptance of the Dumbarton Oaks plan has been made easier, moreover, by the Yalta agreement on voting in the Security Council. Sharp division was once threatened over the question of giving our delegate to the Council authority to commit the United States to use of military force against an aggressor nation without specific approval by Congress. With this broad discretion, the delegate might have been able to commit the nation to a major war.

At Yalta, however, it was agreed that any one of the Big Five may veto the application of sanctions, even if a case involving itself is before the Council. This means that force will not be used under the peace plan against the United States, Russia, Great Britain, China, or France. Sanctions will be voted only to curb aggression from one of our present enemies or from a smaller power.

The application of these routine police measures can certainly be entrusted to the delegate, acting under the President’s direction, without any special instructions from Congress. The veto power should facilitate passage of a bill by Congress defining our delegate’s powers.

The Polish imbroglio

Agreement was spelled out in more detail in the case of Poland. A Russian-American-British commission was set up to carry out the joint policy agreed upon. It will aid in transforming the made-in-Moscow regime into a Polish Provisional Government by drawing into it “democratic leaders from Poland itself and from Poles abroad.” That government, acting in consultation with and under the watchful eyes of the Big Three commission, will be pledged to “the holding of free and unfettered elections as soon as possible on the basis of universal suffrage and secret ballot,” with all democratic and anti-Nazi parties at liberty to name candidates and to electioneer for them.

General satisfaction over this untangling of the Polish political imbroglio was offset in some measure by grumbling over the boundary settlement. Stalin continued to insist at Yalta on his pound of flesh from Poland, the territory that Polish arms had wrested from Russia in the days of her weakness — an aggression specifically disapproved by our Secretary of State at the time, in an area which not even the Poles have contended contains a Polish majority.

Assistant President James F. Byrnes pointed out, on his return to Washington, that the Curzon Line — now to be restored with some digressions of five to eight kilometers — was the provisional RussianPolish border recognized by the British and French governments in 1919.

International coöperation moved forward on another front when the President asked Congress to approve our participation in the $8,800,000,000 International Monetary Fund and the $9,100,000,000 International Bank for Reconstruction and Development agreed upon at Bretton Woods last summer. As the foremost power in commerce and finance, the United States must lead in this undertaking. By doing so we can at least give the world a chance to escape “the maelstrom of panic and economic warfare” that some Jeremiahs see on the post-war horizon. Without these aids to stability and trade, the new internationalism that is rising would be all spirit and no body.

Congress gambles with manpower

The clarification of our foreign policy contrasts pointedly with the continued bickering and confusion on the home front. Especially disturbing was the floundering of Congress when it finally came face to face with the waste of manpower. President Roosevelt in January asked once more for national service legislation. Labor shortages in a few industries were acute. The turnover was appalling — in some instances 90 per cent a year.

But Congress was in a gambling mood. The House reluctantly passed the May-Bailey bill, providing for a war work draft applicable to men between eighteen and forty-five. The Senate Military Affairs Committee discarded even this limited measure and brought in a hodgepodge affair to put statutory authority behind the decrees of Manpower Chief Paul McNutt. After two months of pulling and hauling, no manpower legislation was in sight.

Meanwhile the War Department did a flip-flop of its own. Its spokesmen had argued persuasively against a provision of the first May-Bailey bill permitting the induction of job-jumpers into special Army work corps. Yet a few weeks later the Department announced the drafting of men under thirty-eight for work corps. These men are sent to Camp Ellis, Illinois, for brief training. Then they may resume industrial work as inactive reservists, if they go willingly and agree to stay put, or as uniformed workers in government-owned plants at soldier’s pay, if the Army prefers it that way. Does the Army favor work corps only if they are set up by fiat and not by law?

Confusion over manpower legislation may extend to the bill proposing universal military training after the war. Sponsors of this measure put it temporarily “on ice” to avoid conflict with the wholly different issue of compulsory work in wartime. But it is likely to become a hotly contested question before summer. Congressman May and others leading the fight for universal military training in peacetime will attempt to press the bill to enactment before the end of the war.

Guns, not butter

Tight is the word for the food situation. Meat is scarcer than at any other time since rationing began. Canned goods are scarce, too, because the OPA permitted the supply to be critically diminished while the country was electioneering last fall and indulging in pipedreams about the war in Europe ending before winter. “Rationed commodities,” says Price Administrator Chester Bowles, “ will not catch up with demand for many months after victory in Europe.”

The chief cause of these shortages is heavy buying by the military. Lack of manpower is also cutting into production, and the squeeze on shipping prevents movement of such commodities as sugar from the Caribbean area. Liberated Europe’s requirements will soon be a larger factor.

Acute hunger prevails in France, Belgium, Holland, and other countries. UNRRA is now trying to make up for the Army’s shortcomings in getting food to these peoples. But UNRRA commands no ships and can operate only with coöperation of countries giving and countries receiving aid. If it is not permitted to get food to the starving, Europe’s misery will rise to plague the peacemakers.


Tension is growing in Washington. In part it may be traced to our overoptimism in regard to the end of the war in Europe. But in much greater part it stems from clashing views on post-war policy.

The fight over Henry Wallace’s nomination to be Secretary of Commerce was an accurate reflection of the capital’s mood. No sooner was a truce declared in this case — involving confirmation of Mr. Wallace to the devitalized secretaryship and the appointment of Mr. Vinson to manage the vast Federal Loan Administration — than the feud broke out again over the President’s selection of Aubrey Williams to head the Rural Electrification Administration. Senators pried into his economic philosophy, his views on Negroes’ rights, and tried to question him on his religion. Seldom has a Presidential appointee been so abused or maligned.

Williams, of course, was a pawn in the running battle between the reactionary right and the radical left. Hate, distrust, and fear by each of the other’s objectives reach the boiling point with little provocation.